Find out why you should Love Local in Norther Ireland this year, were to find the best bites from Good Food Ireland on your travels.
This month, in keeping with February’s reputation as the month for love, we are all set to ‘Love Local’ as part of the Year of Food and Drink in Northern Ireland 2016 initiative. It’s ALL about getting warm and fuzzy with the local produce of a diverse and productive part of the island of Ireland.
Several factors influence the produce of Northern Ireland. Good grazing pasture supports dairy and beef farming. Hilly areas are dotted with lamb which gathers flavour as it dines out on mountain grasses and herbs. The Glens of Antrim are famous for potato growing. Bountiful orchards in Antrim and Armagh bring forth superb autumn crops of apples for juices and ciders. Fertile agricultural land in rural areas means plentiful seed crops like rape and hemp. These have carved a new culinary niche in the production of healthy and flavoursome oils to rival any Mediterranean olive oils. Traditional baking is also a big part of the cookery heritage of this region. Soda farls, potato farls, oatcakes and soda breads are featured in all meals from breakfast to supper.
PRODUCERS WE LOVE:
HEMP AND RAPESEED OILS
On the Waringstown Estate in Co.Down, Jane Harnett of Harnett’s Oils produces several culinary oils from rapeseed and hemp seed grown on the Harnett family farm on the estate. Seeds are grown and harvested here, before being cold virgin pressed to extract top quality oil for culinary use. Virgin pressing means the seeds are only pressed once, to extract the most pure and tasty oil.
Harnett’s Rapeseed Oil is an intense nutty tasting oil. It’s perfect for cooking or using in dressings. Hemp Seed oil is dark green and extremely herbaceous in flavour. Both rapeseed and hemp seed oils are known for their superlative nutritional values. These are the oils for good heart health! Add a spoonful to smoothies, or use them both for any general use where you would have normally used olive oil.
These home produced oils are just as good if not better than our Mediterranean counterpart! Jane Harnett is now seeking PGI status for her Harnett’s Rapeseed Oil. PGI means Protected Geographical Indication, and if it is granted, offers unique protection to the product, a true regional identity for the oil which means it cannot be made elsewhere. Jane’s application has now passed the UK stage and has moved on to be reviewed by the European Union.
APPLE JUICES AND CIDER
If you love anything drinkable and appley, the Northern Irish counties of Antrim and Armagh are the place to find some of the best juices and ciders in Ireland. In Antrim, dj’s juices and ciders are made by Dave and Janet Uprichard. Hence the combo of initials for the name of their delicious apple juices, made from locally grown apples. Dave also makes the Tempted? range of ciders, with a name based on the biblical tale of Eve being tempted by the apple in the Garden of Eden. She couldn’t resist and neither will you.
In Armagh, The Armagh Cider Company makes a range of award winning ciders from their own home-grown apples. There are some distinctive styles in this range, to suit all tastes. These are artisan craft made ciders that contain nothing except cider apples, time and patience. Delicious on their own and with foods like a cheese or meat platter and Ploughman’s Lunch with ham, cheese, chutney and crusty bread.
DAIRY ICE CREAM
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! Especially when it’s Glastry Farm Ice Cream is made by the Taylor family, on their farm in Kircubbin, Co.Down, with their own. This is a real dairy ice cream in several delicious flavours. Scoop this on a cone, pop it in a bowl, or make delicate quennelles to serve on the side of a homemade dessert or hot apple tart. Whichever way you eat it, you’ll taste the richness of the milk from happy cows, which makes superlative award winning ice cream.
TRADITIONAL NORTHERN IRISH OATCAKES
Co. Derry is the home of Ditty’s Bakeries. This Master Baker has two bakeries and cafes in Castledawson and Magherfelt. Here he produces a range of delightful home baking, including his famous traditional Ditty’s Oatcakes. Oatcakes are an original treat from this part of Ireland. They work well with cheeses, smoked salmon, or cold meats. They make superb bases for little canapes. And, of course, an oatcake or two makes a handy snack when you’re feeling peckish any old time! At Ditty’s you’ll also find an array of traditional regional baking specialties including soda and potato farls, plus some special cakes, buns, biscuits and gateaux which show off the skills of this old and historical bakery.